Posts Tagged ‘executive development’

Transcending Stress by Norman Rosenthal, M.D. for Decision Magazine

October 1, 2012

Decision Magazine, a UK business publication, featured an article on TM in the Wellness section of the Summer 2012 issue: Transcendental Meditation offers a promising remedy for workplace stress says NORMAN E ROSENTHAL M.D. You can download a PDF of Decision Summer 2012 to see the article laid out with images on pages 48-49.

Transcending Stress by Norman Rosenthal, M.D.

It’s not stress that kills us; it’s our reaction to it. – Hans Selye

It is a matter of broad consensus that stress in the workplace has reached epidemic proportions. So bad has the problem become, that stress is now a more common cause of long-term sick leave than stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Workplace stress has been labeled “The Black Death of the 21st Century.”

Common causes of workplace stress include excessive workload, poor management style, workplace restructuring, and problems at home. As the great pioneer in stress research, Hans Selye, observed, it is not the stress itself, but how we react to it that affects its impact on our bodies and minds. During economic downturns, such as we are facing at present, ordinary workplace difficulties become more stressful because workers feel insecure about their job stability and fearful of losing their job, especially because it is often difficult to find a new one.

Stress takes a toll on both body and mind. It is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in developed countries. In addition, it predisposes to anxiety and depression, both enormous mental health problems. For those who of us who are concerned about performance and productivity in the workplace, it is crucial to find remedies for toxic work stresses. Such remedies will also lead to healthier workers, with fewer days off sick, lower health care bills, and extra years of productivity. There are many available “stress management” programmes. In this piece, I make the case why a simple but powerful technique, Transcendental Meditation (TM), should rise to the top of the list.

Why Transcendental Meditation?
TM is a simple technique of meditation, taught in a standardized one-on-one way over the course of a week. The instructor gives the student a mantra, along with instructions as to how to use it. TM is simple to learn and easy to practise. Ideally, the practitioner should sit comfortably with eyes closed for two sessions of 20 minutes each per day.

As a researcher and physician, I have been impressed by the scope and extent of research data supporting the benefits of TM (over 330 peer-reviewed articles to date). Much of this research has a direct bearing on the damaging physical effects of stress. For example, controlled studies have shown multiple physical benefits of TM versus controlled treatments, such as: (1) Reduction in blood pressure that is both statistically and clinically meaningful; (2) Actual reversal of arterial narrowing in the carotid arteries which carry blood to the brain; (3) increased longevity over the course of years (a finding that has been replicated). From the point of physical wellbeing alone, TM is worth practising.

But there is more. A meta-analysis of 146 treatment groups found that TM reduced anxiety to a greater extent than other approaches. Likewise, five controlled studies in people not recruited specifically for depression showed that practising TM was followed by a reduction in depression symptoms to a greater extent than control treatments. Evidence suggests that the improved blood pressure seen with TM is mediated by decreased anxiety. In other words, TM seems to be acting as a shock absorber, decreasing the impact of stress on both mind and body.

No other “stress management technique” has anywhere close to this amount of hard data in support of its claims to reduce stress.

Beyond its effects on stress reduction, TM has also been shown in numerous studies to improve levels of self-actualization – a term used to describe the need for people to be the best they can be. This benefit may result from the direct effects of TM on the brain, which include increased brain coherence. Brain coherence means that the firing patterns in different parts of the brain correspond to one another. Higher levels of brain coherence have been associated with higher levels of performance, both in businessmen and athletes.

How do the benefits of TM play out in the workplace?
To begin, let us hear from two leading business people, who are regular meditators and have praised TM’s benefits: Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the largest hedge fund in the world; and Oprah Winfrey, media icon and CEO of Harpo Studios. Dalio has said that TM has helped him make up for lost sleep and has made his patterns of thinking “more centered and creative.” With TM, he says, “Life got better and everything became easier.” He reports dealing with challenges in a calm, clear-headed way, which allows him to put things in perspective – “like a ninja.” Winfrey was so pleased with her own personal experience with TM that she provided TM training free of charge to all members of her organization. Her observations: “You can’t imagine what has happened. People are sleeping better. People have better relationships. People interact with other people better. It’s been fantastic.”

Many other CEOs and business leaders have reported similar benefits in their organizations. How can we understand these extraordinary transformations?

How can TM help work-stress?
Let me count the ways. TM results in:
1. Increased brain coherence that is associated with increased levels of accomplishment
2. Reduced stress responses producing more clarity, less reactivity, and better decision-making. As Dalio put it, “I am centered – not hijacked by emotion”
3. Enhanced creativity, even with aging
4. Better physical health
5. Greater harmony

At every level of organization, TM promotes harmony. This applies within the mind of the meditator, between mind and body, and in groups. Once the meditator learns the practice and develops the habit, the 40 minutes spent per day is rapidly repaid in the form of improved performance and efficiency. How wonderful it is to think that this quiet twice-daily practice might turn out to be a remedy for “The Black Death of the 21st century!”

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D is author of Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation (Hay House, 2012).

An updated reprint edition by Tarcher is available in North America on Amazon.

Click here for more posts on Norman Rosenthal on my blog, and also visit Norman Rosenthal’s website and blog: http://normanrosenthal.com.

For more information on Transcendental Meditation for business executives and companies please visit www.tmbusiness.org.

Research breakthrough: High brain integration underlies winning performances

June 18, 2012

Research breakthrough: High brain integration underlies winning performances

World-class performers in management, sports and music often have uniquely high mind-brain development

Scientists trying to understand why some people excel—whether as world-class athletes, virtuoso musicians, or top CEOs—have discovered that these outstanding performers have unique brain characteristics that make them different from other people.

A study published in May in the journal Cognitive Processing found that 20 top-level managers scored higher on three measures—the Brain Integration Scale, Gibbs’s Socio-moral Reasoning questionnaire, and an inventory of peak experiences—compared to 20 low-level managers that served as matched controls. This is the fourth study in which researchers have been able to correlate the brain’s activity with top performance and peak experiences, having previously studied world-class athletes and professional classical musicians.

“What we have found,” says Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, “is an astonishing integration of brain functioning in high performers compared to average-performing controls. We are the first in the world to show that there is a brain measure of effective leadership.”

“Everyone wants excellence,” says Harald Harung of the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway. “Yet, current understanding of high performance is fragmented. What we have done in our research, is to use quantitative and neurophysiological research methods on topics that so far have been dominated by psychology.”

Dr. Travis, Dr. Harung, and colleagues have carried out a total of four empirical studies comparing world-class performers to average performers. This recent study and two others have examined top performers in management, sports, and classical music. In addition, a number of years ago Dr. Harung and colleagues published a fourth study on a variety of professions, such as public administration, management, sports, arts and education.

Measured Brain Activity

The studies carried out by the researchers include measurements of the performers’ brains by using electroencephalography, EEG. Hospitals use this equipment and method to determine possible brain injuries after traffic accidents. EEG, however, can also be used to look at the extent of integration and development of several brain processes.

The researchers looked at three different measurements that all reflect how well the brain works as a whole: 1) Coherence, which shows how well the various parts of the brain cooperate, 2) Amount of alpha waves, which reflect restful alertness, and 3) How economically or effectively the brain works.

The three measurements are then put together in an expression of brain refinement, the Brain Integration Scale.

World-class performance has so far been mostly regarded from a psychological point of view, especially speaking of management. Researchers often explain management skills as a result of special personal or psychological characteristics that some have, and others don’t.

“Our research in brain activity and brain integration is done from more of a natural science angle. By such means, we hope we are closer to an effective and comprehensive understanding of why some succeed better than others,” says Harung.

In all the groups of top performers, measurements were checked by using control groups. The controls were average performers, such as low-level managers or amateur musicians. The data gave one surprising result: Among the musicians, both the professionals and the amateurs turned out to have a high level of brain integration. In the two other studies, this measurement showed major differences between the persons with top-level performance and the control groups.

“We believe that for musicians, the explanation might be that classical music in itself contributes to such integration, regardless of your performance level,” says Dr. Harung.

Peak Experience

The researchers found it’s not just that their brains function differently; the world-class performers also had particular subjective experiences that were associated with their top performances.

Called peak experiences, these experiences are characterized by happiness, inner calm, maximum wakefulness, effortlessness and ease of functioning, absence of fear, transcendence of ordinary time and space, and a sense of perfection and even invincibility.

The first study was done on world-class athletes selected by the National Olympic Training Center in Norway and the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. Besides screening athletes’ brains using EEG, each athlete was interviewed about their experiences while performing at their very best. The result was a wide range of peak experiences.

Former cross-country skier Thomas Alsgaard, who won 11 gold medals in Olympic Games and World Championships, said:

“The senses are so open that you have the ability to receive signals that are almost scary: In a way it is a ‘high.’ I receive an unbelievable amount of information. Much, much more—10-20 times more information—than what I manage to take in if I sit down and concentrate and try to perceive things. But I am so relaxed. And the more relaxed I am, the more information I register.”

Another athlete who participated in the research is the Norwegian handball keeper, Heidi Tjugum, who was part of the Norwegian national team that won one World Championship, one European Championship, two European Cups and a number of silver and bronze medals. She says:

“Sometimes I have felt that I am an observer—I just watch what happens. This is a good feeling. It is a very beautiful feeling; it is not that I feel I don’t have control. But it goes by itself—in reality I do not have to initiate anything at all. Extremely here and now—nothing else matters.”

These statements are similar to those the researchers gathered from other top-class performers, both among the musicians and the business leaders. As seen, they found a significant difference amongst the top performers and controls on several quantitative measures.

“Therefore, there must be some common inner attributes and processes that make top performers able to deliver at top level, regardless of profession or activity,” says Travis. “We found this common inner dimension to be what we called higher mind-brain development.”

Higher mind-brain development includes that various aspects and parts of the brain work together in an integrated way. Among world-class performers this integration is especially well developed.

Presenting a New Theory

The researchers have developed a new theory, a Unified Theory of Performance, which suggests that higher levels of mind-brain development form a platform for higher performance, regardless of profession or activity.

“It seems like these mind-brain variables represent a fundamental potential for being good, really good, in the particular activity one has decided to carry out,” says Harung.

For all three recent studies the researchers also found that top-level performers outscored the control groups in a test of moral development. Higher moral development implies an expanded awareness where one is able to satisfy the interests of other people and not just their own needs. Harung finds it remarkable that high levels of performance, in a wide spectrum of activities, are connected to high moral standards.

“This should give an extra push to act morally, in addition to a better self-image, fewer sleepless nights and a good reputation,” Dr. Harung says. “The key to top-level performance, therefore, seems to be that we make more use of our inherent capabilities.”

Implications of the Research

The discovery that the brains of world-class performers have similar characteristics raises some important questions, such as: 1) Is there a way one can develop one’s brain to have more of these characteristics and thereby perform at a higher level? And 2) Can measuring a person’s brain predict the potential for someone to be a world-class performer?

These and other researchers have actively explored whether meditation techniques, for example, can help to actively cultivate one’s brain. Research by Dr. Travis and others has found that Transcendental Meditation practitioners do have greater EEG coherence, greater presence of alpha waves, and, in some advanced practitioners, a very efficiently functioning brain. A coherent brain is a high-performing brain.

In addition, researchers have been exploring possible applications to predict performance ability in general and leadership ability in particular. For example, if a corporation has preliminarily selected five candidates for its CEO position, the above measures could be administered to aid in the final decision. Or these measures can be used to assess the effectiveness of training or education in increasing an individual’s performance capacity.

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Scientific Literature

1. Harung, H. S., Travis, F., (2012) Higher mind-brain development in successful leaders: testing a unified theory of performance. Cognitive Processing Vol 13, Number 2, 171-181, DOI: 10.1007/s10339-011-0432-x

2. Harung, H. S. (2012). Illustrations of Peak Experiences during Optimal Performance in World-class Performers: Integration Eastern and Western Insights. Journal of Human Values, 18(1), 33-52, doi:10.1177/097168581101800104

3. Travis, F., Harung, H. S., & Lagrosen, Y. (2011). Moral Development, Executive Functioning, Peak Experiences and Brain Patterns in Professional and Amateur Classical Musicians: Interpreted in Light of a Unified Theory of Performance. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1256-1264

4. Harung, H.S., Travis, F., Pensgaard, A. M., Boes, R., Cook-Greuter, S., Daley, K. (2011). Higher psycho-physiological refinement in world-class Norwegian athletes: brain measures of performance capacity. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Vol 21, Issue 1, pages 32, February 2011, doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01007.x

5. Harung, H. S., Heaton, D. P., Graff, W. W., & Alexander, C. N. (1996). Peak performance and higher states of consciousness: A study of world-class performers. Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 3-23

Related Articles

New study sheds light on “peak experiences” in world-class performers | New research looks at brain integration in top athletes and in long-time meditators | ‘Brilliant minds’—New Research on the Brain State of Virtuoso Musicians and How it Relates to TM | ScienceDaily: Musicians’ Brains Highly Developed | Freakonomics: Do Musicians Have Better Brains?

Source: EurekAlert!

Latest Study

Does Practice Make Perfect Or Are Some People More Creative Than Others? Study finds brain integration correlates with greater creativity in product-development engineers. The study was discussed on TMHome: Brain integration, the key to creativity, citing Medical News Today’s report on the study. Science writer Fiona Macrae had some questions for researchers Fred Travis and Yvonne Lagrosen before she completed her article for The Daily Mail: Forget ‘practice makes perfect’ – meditation is the key to success, study claims.


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